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Video games are also important

Video games are also important published on

Oh, my god, Phoenix Wright is such a jerk. This is probably the most realistic thing in the game – that the trial lawyer in his early twenties who’s won all his early cases is a borderline sociopath with no respect for any of his colleagues, including, apparently, his genius mentor.

But I can’t figure out if the game realizes he’s a jerk. I think it sort of does? People mock him a lot. And the puzzles are set up so as to make him seem less observant outside of the courtroom than inside. Inside, when the player solves something, Phoenix’s dialog is such that he seems to have solved it himself. Outside, when the player solves something or triggers an event, the NPC’s, particularly Maya and Mia, tend to be ahead of him.

Which is kind of weird, in that outside the courtroom, the player does everything from Phoenix’s POV – you never see him, only the NPCs and the settings he’s moving around in. When in court, though, whenever the player makes a decision, the POV switches to 3rd-person, and the player watches him talk. Intuitively, this seems kind of backwards, but I actually think it works really well. (Though I cannot explain why – maybe I need to actually play some other adventure games before I try and start analyzing the design decisions here.)

Well, no, wait I have a theory – outside the courtroom, nothing Phoenix does really matters. The stuff that happens out there is just preparation for whatever case he’s working on. (“This blurry photograph is intriguing. I won’t show it to anyone – I’ll save it to use as evidence.”) The storylines always resolve inside the courtroom. Not showing Phoenix himself during the out-in-the-wild sections depersonalizes his actions by making it feel like the player is alone with the puzzles. This lessens the emotional intensity of these parts of the game. When Redd White punches Phoenix and threatens him in his office, it has less force than when Edgeworth makes fun of his skill at cross-examination in front of the judge. In the courtroom, you can see Phoenix and his facial expressions and reactions. That personalizes the proceedings, and makes it clear that This Part Is Real.

I guess this is why you can’t see yourself in an FPS or the Myst games – it depersonalizes the stuff you’re doing, and makes you concentrate entirely on whatever the game thinks is most important, rather than on your character. In the FPS’s, that’s the killin’, while in Myst, it’s the environment. And I can’t offhand think of an RPG, even a 3D one, even one of the ones where Protagonist doesn’t talk and has no personality, where you can’t see him/her on your screen.

(Wait – am I all a crazy person, or is the default view when you first log into World of Warcraft one where you can’t see your avatar? Or is it just that that was the way thegeekgene set it up, and I ended up with her settings…)

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